Not more than 24 hours ago was I here writing up a summary of the pivotal talks for the future of the Eurozone that are taking place in Brussels and now everything, or almost everything, has changed.

In the last day of almost non-stop negotiations, a already humiliated Tsipras has been dragged through the mud in an unbearable and horrendous manner. The Germans, believe it or not, have towed a harder line, completely redefining the notion of intransigence altogether, refusing and shutting down Greek propositions and pushing for harsher measures and lighting bolt reforms. Tsipras and his team of advisors went through what was dubbed by observers as a session of “mental waterboarding,” a preview of what might be in the works for the Greek people within the days to come.

The German Grexit

The most amazing turn of events was that, finally, Germany’s hidden agenda for a Greek exit from the Eurozone has surfaced in one of the four draft propositions that circulated on social media and throughout the mainstream media during the talks that lasted for a record 17 hours. The German will to precipitate and encourage the Grexit outcome is telling. The German government wants to send a strong signal and it’s nothing “personal.” It has more to do with the anti-austerity movements that are brewing throughout Europe, and not just in Greece.

Surely the German position wasn’t improvised and, unlike some have said, Merkel and her administration are not being irrational. The Germans, politicians and public, aren’t suffering from some sort of PTSD acquired during the hyperinflation crisis of the 1930s or an incommensurable will to humiliate and trample Greece. (This has been accomplished ten fold over the past five years) They are very much conscious of their program and nonchalant about its application.

Make no mistakes. This will be the Versailles Treaty of the Eurozone.

2011_Greece_Uprising
100,000 people protest against the austerity measures in front of parliament building in Athens (29 May 2011). From Wikipedia.

Restructuring of the Greek State Instead of the Greek Debt

The German program, the austerity program put forward by the German delegation among others, has one essential objective: to put the Greek people under guardianship by nullifying their voting system. The Eurogroup’s end isn’t merely to humiliate Greece, but to restructure the Greek state from the top down, leaving it devoid of any input from its own citizens.

But this restructuring goes further. The Eurogroup, which seemed to be on the defensive after the victory of the #OXI (isn’t that a far away memory?), is now demanding that Greece privatize 50 billion euros in public assets. The Greek state must become an empty shell. First, the utilities markets will have to be liberalized. But 50 billion euros means much more than an austerity-lite. The propositions the Eurogroup have put on the table call for the complete dismantlement of the Greek state and the transfer of its assets into the hands of third party management – technically a bank would run the bulk of Greece if this proposition goes through.

“There is no alternative”

The program put forward by Team Austerity is more than just the economical restructuring of Greece, it’s a way to cleanse Greek of its socialistic tendencies and of the “democratic mistake” of SYRIZA.

In a Europe where Socialist parties are the shadows of their former selves, at best lending a human face for austerity measures and at worst selling out their “working-class” constituency to legitimize deeper cuts. SYRIZA had been the first major threat against the neoliberal hegemony to have surfaced on European soil within decades, since the election of François Mitterrand in the 1980s and the implementation of the Programme Commun – which also resulted in utter failure. The neoliberal discourse has, within the past years, been shaken to its core and radical left-wing oppositions have appeared as an alternative. The German position reaffirms what Thatcher had said a few decades ago: “there is no alternative.” What German intransigence means, more than anything else, is that the reform approach of social-democratic governments with the current rapport of forces and within the Eurozone is unrealistic and has proven to be an impossible mission.

No to austerity
Anti-austerity demo in Edinburgh. 14 Feb, 2015. Photo by Digi Tailwag. Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0.

The Lineage of a New Absolutist Supranational Entity

The German proposition is using Greece to shift the current dynamic within the Eurozone. Within the past two decades, European federalism has been refused most notably in the referendum of 2005, in which both the French and Dutch electorates voted against the proposed European Constitution, thereby refusing federalism. Today, the technocratic federalism, which was rejected by the electorates in the past, is making its comeback in an astonishing way, through austerity. The dynamic of “economic integration,” the implementation of a common currency and of a common free trade zone has come to trump the democratic procedures of most member states. If this deal goes through, it’s not just Greece that must be worried, but every small European member state that has a sizeable amount of debt.

Thus the lineages of a new form of absolutist state have been formed – a state that is technically independent, but in reality completely subdued to the will of unelected lenders, bankers, and technocrats. Could it be that Greece, the cradle of western democracy, is also set to be it’s gravesite? Only time will tell.

What is to be Done?

For left-wing movements, there are many more questions than answers that arise as the final outline of yet another humiliating deal for Greece is drawn. How can there be a break with the Eurozone? How must we reform the European Union and European institutions? Is reforming this corrupt system even possible?

But most importantly, as the conversations draw to a close in Brussels, there are three points to be made about the future and the survival of socialist and social-democratic movements that refute the neoliberal stranglehold and want to challenge it:

First, Oxi, a “No” against savage neoliberalism and barbaric liberalization and privatization is possible. Sections of European society, public service workers, the youth, the unemployed, the underemployed, migrant workers, the service class and the working class are ready to be mobilized. We must take the necessary lessons from the Greek referendum and implement them broadly.

Second, the reaction against the Greek Oxi vote was international. A globalized reaction can only be met with a globalized revolt. European anti-austerity movements must organize in a transnational manner and create strong and enduring alliances amongst each other. Actions must be coordinated simultaneously. In other words, international general strikes and transnational movements must foster a strong consortium of action.

Third, we must be ready to break – but that is easier said than done. What a break means and how it is to be achieved are the primordial questions. These questions do not seem to have been drawn up on the SYRIZA planning board. The drawing of this solution might make us question the entirety of our strategic and our tactical outlook. One thing is certain, this new solution must be drawn within the context of incredible financial pressure and blackmail. Grexit or not, default or not, that will remain the case.

A luta continua.

The Eurogroup emergency meeting came to an abrupt end at 12 a.m. Brussels local time, after 9 hours of excruciating debates.  The vacuum of information caused by the Eurogroup’s closed-doors meeting fostered a twilight zone of sheer terror for some – most of the Greeks –  and patchwork of divergent rumours were abundant: that the Germans would oppose any kind of deal; that, according to a few tweets, the opposition turned into a Finnish ultimatum, and that the Grexit was finally precipitating and imminent.

Within this void, various countries’ positions formed stark opposites. Compare the eternal French “joie de vivre” and the Italian “end to humiliation” with the Finnish, German and Dutch tough-on-Greece stance. All of this underlines that, whatever the outcome of the Eurogroup talks this week, the European project has capitulated and this might merely be the visible tip of a much more profound crisis. The specter of Greece haunts Europe.

A modernization of the Greek economy? The New Greek Proposition

The proposition that the new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos tabled Thursday wasn’t in itself that different from the propositions that were deemed inacceptable by his ex-colleague Varoufakis not more than a week ago and which were also massively refused by the Greek public.

The new Greek proposal consists in its main outlines of cuts to pensions, which have already dilapidated since the onset of austerity measures in Greece, a rise in the sales tax (VAT), the progressive phasing-out of the VAT exemption for Greek islands, and the privatization of the last of the Greek public assets i.e. the port of Piraeus, which has been a point of contention.  Within the this potpourri of austerity on steroids the only silver-lining – if any –was to be found in the propositions of rising the corporate tax rate and the abolition of the exemption of taxation for ship-owners; a relic of the fascist dictatorship of colonels. These latter proposals were already turned down in previous negotiations by the Eurogroup.

Euclid Tsakolotos
Euclid Tsakolotos. Photo from Sinn Feid, Flickr CC by 2.0.

The emphasis was put on the “modernization” of Greece, by putting in place  necessary measures and adjustments to move Greece forward. This being said, drastic efforts have been put in place over the past few years to ensure that end; however the European Union has been unwilling to help with the said “modernization,” especially in terms of its financial framework, its taxation system and coming to its aid in its fight to prosecute tax evasion. The amount of Greek euros held in financial safe-havens like the London, Luxembourg and Switzerland in general, is incalculable.

Tsipras and the coup of the extreme-center

It might seem extraordinary, schizophrenic even, that, in less than a week, the Greek position, which seemed to be at the pinnacle of its power, invigorated by a crushing “Oxi” vote and the resignation of one of the main political leaders of the political opposition Antonis Samaras, capitulated to the rapacious force of the creditors. But to think anything different was failing to see the prophetic signs that those who had pillaged Greece for the past five year – some might say for decades – had any will to relinquish their hold of the Greek economy.

Thursday, as the first outlines of the new Greek proposition were tabled and the new package was put for before the Greek parliament to be voted upon, even the Greek prime minister couldn’t hide the calamity that was before Greek legislators.

Between a bad and a catastrophic choice, we are forced to choose the first […] it’s not easy but we have to,” Tsipras said. During a tense and fratricidal debate, 251 MPs, many from the ranks of the governing coalition and those of the neoliberal extreme-centre (Potami and New Democracy) voted in favour of the new proposition. Notably, Tsipras lost the foundations of his governing majority and a split within SYRIZA (of its left platform) is imminent. The anti-austerity majority rising from the still fuming victorious Oxi vote was thus transformed, within the space of a few days, into its most dreaded enemy: a reconstituted, reinvigorated, extreme centre.

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The Eurogroup meets

From financial waterboarding to financial strangling

But this “strategic retreat,” as some have dubbed it within the European left, was the obvious outcome of the negotiations from the moment ex-finance minister Varoufakis resigned amidst the elation of the crushing victory of the Oxi camp as the final votes were being counted in last weeks referendum. The stance that Tsipras took, that a strong Oxi vote was a tactical maneuver to strengthen the Greek negotiating position didn’t materialize. Instead, the hounds of austerity saw the referendum as a provocation.

The first move of the Eurogroup through the European Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) was to maintain their stranglehold on the Greek public, through withholding funds that should have enabled Greek banks to reopen within this past week. This position was no different from the ELA’s position to cut all funding to Greek financial institutions from the day the referendum was called.

Using such tactics, which have come under none or very little criticism through the European partners, as ex-finance minister Varoufakis announced the morning of the referendum, was a move with the objective of terrorizing and subduing the Greek people into voting in favour of the dictum of the Eurogroup.

With all the frenzy of a Grexit, few have noticed that Greece has been de facto under a financial embargo, which has pushed it to the fringes of the Eurozone and was a consequence of European policy and not the hidden agenda of the Greek government.

Tsipras speaks
Tsipras speaking

A symbolic death for Europe

Two dynamics have been lethal for the Greek cause within the negotiations.

First: The Eurogroup reigns supreme. Europe, having pushed its weight around, has proven that it is the only relevant instance, that its members are the real deal brokers behind the curtains, and that’s where power lies within Europe outside of the public sphere: in a place at the antipodes of democracy.

Second: the Greek referendum had a huge symbolic importance but unfortunately not much more than that. The Oxi of 61% of Greeks within the current framework of the European Union is only binding to those that care for the notions of democracy and popular sovereignty. Those notions are alien to the Schäubles and Dijsselbloems of this world.

Many have stated the cataclysmic consequences of a Grexit for Greece, but little have measured the consequences this entire process has had on the future of the European project. While making his way through the hoards of journalists awaiting some newsworthy shred of information, Dijsselbloems stated that it was “still very difficult because of the lack of confidence that reigns between lenders and the Greek government.”

The European institutions have proven right – some would say once again – the Eurosceptics in their view that the EU has a complete disregard for the democratic will of the peoples it supposedly represents. The distrust between the peoples of Europe and the European institution has taken various forms. “Fascistoid” and xenophobic political formations have capitalized on this lack of confidence. The EU that sought to “modernize” Greece is in need of a profound “modernization” itself, which is why, today, the downfall of Greece might not necessarily mean the downfall of the EU. However, for the sake of a brighter future, it must mean its demise.

As Zoe Kostantopoulou said addressing the Greek parliament, “The No of the Greek people stands above us all.” “No”s in more languages than one will come in future and that’s the specter that haunts Europe.

Of all the feelings I thought I’d have at a memorial to gay Holocaust victims, shame was the furthest from my mind. Yet it’s exactly what I felt.

While on a walking tour in Berlin recently, my boyfriend and I stopped at the breathtaking Holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg Gate.

A graveyard of towering grey pillars overwhelms its guests as they work their way into the grid. And as city sounds give way to silence, the sheer madness of the Holocaust, the demented logic of fascism, and the utter bleakness of World War II are brought to bear on those who enter.

The absence of identifiable symbols or colours—religious or otherwise—strengthens the inclusive nature of the monument. So when I found out the memorial was not actually for all victims of the Holocaust, but only for the Jews, I felt shameful.

I felt shame that my own community’s suffering was deemed unworthy of inclusion in a most important Holocaust memorial. Was the pain felt by a gay man somehow lesser than that felt by a Jew?

Enough people felt the suffering of homosexuals was worthy of commemoration, though, that a monument was eventually built for them. But after seeing it, I’m not quite sure what to think.

Coming from the immense Jewish monument, the ‘Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism’ is underwhelming, to say the least. It stands as but a single, towering, unmarked block of concrete, nestled away in a nondescript enclave of the famous Tiergarten.

The juxtaposition of the two sites—one impossible to miss, the other hard to notice—only added to my initial shame of exclusion. Why is the monument for gay victims hidden in the bushes?

Maybe it’s a fitting place, I thought to myself. Maybe a memorial planted in the forest, where those it commemorates were once shamed into seeking discreet sex, is appropriate. Or maybe not. In any case, the jury is out on that decision, so I’ll continue with the tour.

The shame of homosexuality is further explored in a video, seen through a window in the giant block, that features short clips of same-sex couples caught kissing in public. Despite hesitancy from the couples, all continue embracing their partner. The act, though hardly remarkable today, was once enough to end the lives of those caught under Germany’s anti-homosexual law.

Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, initially passed in 1871, criminalized sexual behaviour between men. Upon taking power, the Nazis intensified the law, allowing for the detention of homosexuals in concentration camps without any legal trial. Of the 5,000–15,000 gay men placed in concentration camps, up to 60 per cent perished.

Those that survived the camps were faced with further injustice after the war. Many of those “saved” were placed back in prison to finish the remainder of their sentence, since paragraph 175 was technically not a Nazi law. And even though the law was modified after WWII, it was not fully repealed until 1994.

Walking out of the woods and back on the main drag, I tried to make sense of the memorial. I realized I hadn’t even kissed my boyfriend in that most perfect of places. Caught up in the politics of the memorial, I’d lost sight of what it was all about: the ability to celebrate one’s love.

So I leaned in and, after a moment’s hesitation, we embraced—shame no longer on my mind.

The memorial may not be perfect. It may not be in the best spot and it may lack the power to inspire awe. But where it succeeds is in its simplicity with the message that love prevails.

Photo courtesy of Julian Ward

Matthais Meyer

Matthais MeyerIt was daylight saving time last Saturday. It’s a good thing overall, at least that it doesn’t get dark at 5pm anymore. But the night we “lose” an hour is generally a shitty night for partying. I mean, getting thrown out of the club at 2am?! We’ll leave that to Toronto! That’s why the only thing that would get me out of my house was a loft party, and not just any type of party…

I found myself across from the Bell Center to enjoy a set by Matthias Meyer. We all know, when it comes to electronic music, German guys do it better. First of all, the venue was perfect. I don’t like to venture downtown often, but being close to the Bell Center has the advantage of not many neighbors around to complain about noise. The loft was a dark small square with a side room to relax in. There were comfy couches, a friendly staff, and a good sound system; that’s all you need to have an all night party. Ok, there was one little problem…there was only one bathroom for everybody. I did end up meeting friendly and generous people in the line-up so in the end all was good.

The event was put on by Revolutions Cap-Chat which is an electronic music event taking place near a wind farm in Gaspesia. To promote the festival in bigger center like Montreal and Quebec, there will be a couple events with the biggest name in the international scene. The first event, last Saturday, featured Matthias Meyer.

Meyer is a DJ but also started producing in 2005 , he’s one of the key member of the Liebe*Detail record label. One of my favourite songs from him is “Tout va bien”. His productions are a good reflection of His DJ style. He can work the crowd for hours with very precise sound, inserting here and there some key tracks that will make dancers go crazy. Last Saturday, I saw a very generous DJ, willing to interact with people and nice enough to text people the name of the best songs he was playing.

I have to thank him for the highlight of my night: Osunlade (remixed by Dixon). Here’s a mix made by Meyer, so you know what you missed.

On another note, Mutek 2012 revealed their initial line-up for this year’s festival. It’s looking very good!

Woman in green t-shirt

Despite the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and renewed fears about the safety of nuclear power, almost no country has taken a position against the controversial energy source, except one.   Europe’s economic engine and most populace country, Germany, has bucked the global trend and announced it will shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022, at the latest.

But ask Jana Wiechmann, Greenpeace coordinator for the northern German city of Bremen, if the battle over nuclear in Germany is won and the answer is simple: no.

“We think we can get out of nuclear energy even quicker, as soon as 2015,” said Wiechmann in an interview a week after the German government made its announcement.

Woman in green t-shirt

Wiechmann and her Greenpeace colleagues have been at the forefront of perhaps the world’s strongest anti-nuclear movement, and though their work has been instrumental in mobilizing the German public against nuclear power, she says abandoning nuclear by 2022 is not nearly soon enough.

In a document Greenpeace Germany calls Der Plan (The Plan), the organization details how the country can wean itself off nuclear power by 2015, seven years earlier than the current government commitment.

Nuclear power provides about 25 percent of Germany’s current electrical supply and in order to get off nuclear, another power source will have to replace this supply.   Greenpeace’s recommendation to decommission all nuclear plants by 2015 makes this a tall order, so much so that the environmental organization is recommending increased use of fossil fuel power plants to make it possible.   And what of the global warming problem or the pollution coal-fired plants create?

“If we have to choose between the risks of nuclear energy where we could nuke the area for thousands of years if I compare that with only the heating of the atmosphere then we choose coal because there is no better alternative,” said Wiechmann.   But she specified that, “coal can only be the bridge from nuclear power to renewable energies.”

The idea of increasing fossil fuel use may seem counterproductive when it comes to other Greenpeace priorities such as battling climate change, but this is an indication of the vehemence of the anti-nuclear movement in the country of nearly 82 million people.

The Greenpeace plan lays out on a year-by-year basis how Germany’s nuclear power plants can be shut down within four years.   Though coal- and natural gas-fired power plants are proposed by Greenpeace to help Germany move away from nuclear, renewable energy is what they see as the long term solution.

maps of Germany with energy icons

Germany is already a leader in renewable energies like wind, solar and biogas, but Der Plan takes the country even further.   “Other countries look at what we are doing and we have the responsibility to show the world what’s possible,” said Wiechmann.

She thinks other countries can watch the German example and use it to decide if they want coal power or if they want to import German technology, since German companies are also leaders in the manufacture and design of wind turbines and solar panels.

Critics may point to the plan to use coal to help fill the supply gap left by the absence of nuclear.  The organization’s plan intends to begin phasing out coal starting in 2016 and to go coal free by 2040.

When Bob Geldof opened the world’s first climate change museum in northern Germany two years ago, he was surprised by two guests, a man from Niger and a man from Samoa whose countries feature prominently in The Journey, the main exhibit at the Klimahaus.   Geldof, a well-known human rights activist and music producer, spoke about water, from rising sea levels to desertification, and how these global warming problems will lead to climate migration.   People like Foua from Samoa and Ibrahim from Niger would be forced to abandon their homes and homelands because their island is being flooded or there simply isn’t enough water available to survive where their people have lived for centuries.

It’s no wonder then that two years later when I arrived at the Klimahaus there was a climate refugee art exhibit surrounding the museum.   Artist Hermann Josef Hack set up his latest work, a scaled-down version of a climate refugee camp with tents scattered around the museum, as part of Bremerhaven’s Fresh Wind science festival.   On his website Hack says the work is designed to bring attention to those who are the victims of the Western world’s “arrogant and selfish behaviour” and who are overlooked by places like the Klimahaus.

a miniature climate refugee camp made of paperboard tents

While Hack’s message is important, the reality of forced climate migration is not lost inside the Klimahaus. The journey around the world takes us from people simply surviving in the near-desert of Niger to the humid rainforests, diverse peoples and wildlife of Cameroon, all at risk from deforestation.   Clear-cutting in Cameroon endangers wildlife and biodiversity through the destruction of habitat and delicate ecosystems while also weakening the planet’s ability to combat global warming.

After a freezing, albeit short trek through Antarctica we arrive in Samoa.   Beautiful and tropical, the island nation is nevertheless the home to people on the edge of climate migration.   Rising sea levels are forcing island nations to adapt to the loss of the ground beneath their feet.   In some places it’s erosion and in others it’s rising water due to higher water temperatures and melting polar ice.

But beyond the Klimahaus and the art exhibit on its shores is Germany’s wider movement towards a greener society.   Renewable energy has become a growing priority in Europe and especially Germany.   In northern Germany wind dominates the renewable energy landscape, literally.  From the plane and train you see them; at the beach they’re there: massive, peacefully spinning wind turbines.

a triptych of wind turbine images

The discussion around renewables like wind power has been spinning even faster since Germany shut down seven of its oldest operating nuclear plants in response to massive national protests before and in the wake of the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster.   Germans are pushing for more renewable energy to replace nuclear power, no small challenge. But if anyone can do it, Germany can.

In 2010 alone, Germany installed 1,493 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity, that’s nearly one-third of Canada’s total installed capacity of 4,588 MW (Germany’s total at the end of 2010 was 27,214 MW, and don’t get me started on solar).   Even though Canada’s numbers are nothing to brag about, Canada’s wind resource has great potential and the numbers have been growing at a tremendous rate.   Up until 2010, installed wind power capacity in Canada had grown by an average of 45 percent per year from 2004 to 2010 (that’s a lot).   But that type of growth needs support.   The federal program that aimed to provide $1.48 billion in investment support for renewable energy from 2007 to 2011, ecoENERGY for Renewable Power, came to an end in early 2010 and has not yet been renewed.

But did we have to come to Germany’s Klimahaus to realize climate change is, as many have written and declared, the greatest challenge of our generation?   Maybe we did.   Some might criticize this article for the greenhouse gas emissions required to make the trip possible.   Blame the climate terror British environmentalist George Monbiot calls love miles, the miles traveled by air to see loved ones.

So while the conflict in writing this article is apparent, so too is the need to spread information to people that might not otherwise find out about it and to spread the word that work is being done on climate change elsewhere and Canada can get on board.  Because as we learned at the Klimahaus: the consequences of global warming are real and happening around the world, but if developments in Germany are any indication, so are the movements for global environmental change.

Photos by Tomas Urbina

Read part one of Tomas Urbina’s report from Germany

They say seeing is believing, but at Germany’s imaginative and revealing climate change museum, they believe experience is even better.  That’s the driving force behind the immersive installations offered by the Klimahaus (Climate House) and its main exhibit, “The Journey,” that transports visitors around the world along one line of longitude, eight degrees east.

Opened in June 2009 in the northern German port city of Bremerhaven, the UNESCO-sponsored museum is the first of its kind. The journey exhibit takes people through a range of the world’s climate zones: mountain glaciers, scorching desert, muggy rainforest and onwards around the globe in an effort to show what climate change means across the planet.

Along the way we meet the people who live in each zone and find out how their lives and worlds are changing due to global warming, be it in Switzerland, Sardinia or Niger. Many of the people we meet through photos, videos, audio and inspired installations are already living in the extremes, but everywhere the journey takes us we see that climate change is inescapable and is a reality people, animals and plants are living.

Picture it: starting in the middle of unassuming Bremerhaven we head due south on train tracks, first stop Switzerland and the Alps. There we learn about the rural traditions of an elderly couple who milk cows and make cheese in a mountain village. Why not have a seat and milk one yourself, it’s easy.

Or climb to the top of the scaled-down glacier and learn about whooping, the fun and lesser-known cousin of yodelling.

But we also learn how things are changing: glaciers in the region are receding quickly, leaving behind massive debris freed from the melting ice and creating major risk of rockslide, a product of climbing temperatures and a world consuming more fossil fuels than ever. You’ll even feel the temperature of a glacier in a passage on the way to the next stop, Sardinia.

The family that awaits you on the Italian island lives with extreme heat. Parts of Sardinia, off Italy’s southwestern coast, suffer from high temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius regularly and dryness that makes forests prone to wild fires. No one works from one to four in the afternoon as the oppressive heat makes it simply impractical.

Working with the premise that a butterfly in one part of the world can cause a tornado in another, we control weather settings in one room and watch the effects on camera as visitors in nearby rooms feel a brisk breeze, a sudden rise in temperature or a downpour next to the old Fiat.

Climate change in Sardinia has only exacerbated the problem of forest fires, which we see helicopter pilots lament in a video as they fly over an infernal landscape. But they also say that education and public engagement has led to better management of the forests and a recent reduction in the number of fires annually.

Further south along the 8th degree line we come to a place on the edge of the desert, though it’s hard to believe you’re not in the Sahara itself. Kanak is a remote region in Niger and is home to the Tuareg, nomads who have been herders in the region for 1300 years. They live on the northern edge of the Sahel, a band of terrain that crosses Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

Conditions there are difficult to bear. After peering into the daily lives of Tuareg families we enter a desert-like room where a single acacia tree stands on a stretch of barren, sandy land. Here, water is at a premium from wells 30 metres deep and desertification is making life harder each year. That reality is brought home by the room’s 35-degree dry heat wave and the single drop of water falling on the tree every twelve minutes, simulating the amount of precipitation the region receives annually.

A quote from a Tuareg woman on the wall leading into the room speaks volumes: “When I was a young woman a lot of things were different. I saw things I no longer see. I don’t see any of those things anymore: giraffes, ostriches, tortoises, antelopes, deer. There were enough.”

“Canada” in the Tuareg language

From Niger the journey continues southward to the rainforests of Cameroon, Antarctica, the Pacific island nation of Samoa and up towards Alaska and before returning to northern Germany. But even to this point the message is clear: climates around the world are changing and the Klimahaus makes those seemingly distant consequences strikingly real.

Please read the conclusion of the Klimahaus journey featuring a climate refugee art exhibit and a closer look at Germany’s renewable energy efforts.

* Photos by Tomas Urbina and Malika Pannek

There has been a shooting of U.S. Soldiers at the Frankfurt International Airport in Germany.

The Gunman, believed to be from Kosovo, drew a weapon and attacked a bus full of soldiers located near terminal 2.

The motivation for the attack remains unknown, but some are speculating that it could be politically motivated.

The bus driver and a soldier were shot and killed. According to German news channel N-TV the shooting took place at 3:20pm local time Wednesday. Another two victims injured are thought to be soldiers. Representatives of the Frankfurt police refused to give the identity of the shooter or any of the victims.

The police released no new information at this time as to the gunman’s motives.

More information to follow.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.